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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to Run MAC OSX on an Eee PC

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EeeMac by Gregory Cohen, via TUAW.
EeeMac by Gregory Cohen, via TUAW.

Feel like stepping beyond the limits of Apple hardware? Want a Mac netbook for under $650? How about an EeePC running Mac OS X?

At least part of the appeal of the dimunitive EeePC netbook is its hackability -- from Linux to Vista, intrepid hackers have figured out how to run just about everything on the EeePC.

In fact, this tutorial was written on a Mac OS X-powered EeePC.

While many would question why you'd want to go to the trouble of installing OS X when there are many Windows and Linux distributions available out of the box? Maybe you're looking for a challenge. Installing OS X on non-Apple hardware provides plenty of chances to flex those (very metaphorical) geek muscles.

Feeling adventurous? Let's start hacking.

This article is a wiki. If you know of a way to get Hackintosh to work on the Eee PC, log in and help get this article in shape.



Legal Caveats

But, before we get started there are a few things you should know. First and foremost, you're about to violate Mac OS X's licensing agreement, which specifically states that use must be limited to Apple hardware.

Therefore, there may be potential legal implications to running Mac OS X on non-Apple hardware. Although, as with most EULAs, Apple's binding agreement has never been upheld by a court of law. We're not lawyers and this guide is not intended to provide legal advice, so proceed at your own risk.

If violating the Apple license bothers you, we have a simple solution: Don't do it.

Known Issues

Before you remove your operating system in lieu of creating your own "Hackintosh," you should be aware of the lingering technical issues and missing features inherent in the hacked version of Mac OS. Eventually some developer will probably solve most of these problems, but so far no one has.

The shortlist of known issues at the time of writing is:

  • No Sound and No Flash -- Your EeePC Hackintosh will not have sound. This seems to carry over from and cause problems with Adobe's Flash plug-in. In my experience, using both Flash 9 and 10 beta, Flash movies will load, play for two seconds and then freeze up. There may be a solution for both problems. Try installing some sort of stereo audio driver and point OS X to it using the System Preferences Audio tab. Many users report success with cheap USB audio dongles.
  • Ethernet doesn't work -- Other experimenters have reported USB-to-ethernet dongles do indeed work to fix this problem. We haven' tried it. If you know something about this, log in and confirm or deny the reports.
  • No F-key support -- Software F-key functions work just fine -- e.g. F-9 activates Expose and so on, but the hardware functions like volume and brightness will not work.
  • Wifi requires a third-party app -- Yes you can get wifi and it does work, but it requires a third-party driver and utility that might be the stupidest Mac app you're ever going to use. It can't remember passwords and you'll have to turn it on and off every time you restart or wake your EeePC from sleep.

The good news is everything else works. Except for Flash, no apps have caused any problems. Although, be aware that Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Contribute and possibly some other graphics apps require larger screens and won't install on your EeePC.

The other good news is, even with the stock 1 GB RAM in the EeePC, Mac OS X is surprisingly snappy. Based on my own experience, the EeePC feels about as snappy as my Macbook. On the other hand, benchmarks actually put the performance on par with late model G5 Macs.

Battery life isn't quite such a happy story. On average, my EeePC Hackintosh gets about 3.5 hours. Firing up Photoshop or Lightroom can reduce the working time to something around 2 hours -- a far cry from the 6-7 hours some people can eek out of XP.


In order to install OS X you're going to need to download one of several Hackintosh OS X distributions. These distros contain modified version of OS X that allow it to run on non-Apple hardware. There are two known to work with the EeePC. Due to legal issues, I can't link straight to them, but here's a link to a torrent search for iDeneb 10.5.4 and Kalyway 10.5.2 which both work with the EeePC 901 and 1000H.

I used the iDeneb disk for my installation and followed the instructions found on

In addition to the hacked version of OS X, here's a list of other things you'll need:

Here's a quick rundown of the installation process, along with some notes on where my experience differed from the Maceee instructions.

  1. Transfer the Ralink installer and patched ktext installer to a USB stick or similar.
  2. Download this modified BIOS file and use the ASUS Update tool pre-installed with Windows XP to update the BIOS. You can find the update tool through Start Menu >> Applications >> Asus >> Asus Update.
  3. With the modified BIOS installed you're ready to go, make sure you've burned iDeneb to a DVD and have a USB DVD drive attached to the EeePC. Pop in the iDeneb DVD and get started.
  4. Restart your EeePC and quickly press the F2 key to enter the BIOS menu. Navigate to Advanced >> CPU Configuration and disable everything but USB support. Also, go to Onboard Devices in the BIOS and disable everything. This step strikes me as unnecessary, but I haven't tried installing without it. Your mileage may vary.
  5. Now head to the BIOS Boot Devices menu, select your DVD drive as the main boot device and restart.
  6. When your EeePC reboots you should be in the iDeneb installer. If you need to format your disk, head to Utilities > Disk Utility, just as you would with a normal OS X install CD. Format your drive as "HFS+ journaled" and save. Two caveats: if you've got an EeePC with a solid state drive, don't use the journaled option when formatting. Second, you should realize this step does what it says and will erase your disk. Also of note, my trackpad did not work during the iDeneb install process. Luckily an attached USB mouse did.
  7. When you reach the drive selection screen, choose the drive you just formatted. Then, on the next screen choose Customize to select the correct packages. Expand the patch options and select the following:
    • Expand the triangle for Chipsets and check ICHx Fixed.
    • Expand the triangle for Kernel and check Kernel 9.4.0 Vanilla.
    • Expand the triangle for Wireless and check Broadcom.
    • Expand the triangle for Fix and check both FireWire Remove and ApplePS2Controller
    • Expand the triangle for Video, then the triangle for Intel. Finally, check the box for GMA950.

Click the install button and cross your fingers. From here it's a pretty normal install of OS X though it does take a bit longer than it would on a Mac. If all goes well, OS X will walk you through the account setup screens and you're up and running.

Unfortunately things did not go well for me. It seems to be a pretty common problem that OS X hangs at "Do you want to transfer information from another Mac" screen. Luckily there's a workaround. Just shut the EeePC and then start it up again holding down the F8 key. When the prompt appears type -s to enter single user command line mode. From there type the following commands, one at a time:

sbin/fsck -fy
/sbin/mount -uw /
touch /var/db/.AppleSetupDone
passwd root

Set the root password and restart. Now OS X should boot at normal. Head to System Preferences, create your user and set the startup options you want. Reboot and login as the user you just created.

Restart the computer and access your BIOS settings. Turn everything we disabled earlier back on (i.e. onboard devices and CPU options) and restart.

Now you have OS X installed, but there's a number of things that are a bit screwy -- screen resolution, no wifi and more. To fix those issues we need the driver files we downloaded earlier. Using the USB stick or similar, transfer the Ralink installer and patched ktext installer to your desktop.

Double click and follow the install process for each. Once you're done, restart and the screen resolution will be fixed and you'll be able to connect to Wifi.

Here's how you connect: Head to the applications folder and double click WirelessUtilityCardbusPCI. Once the app opens, click the advanced tab and toggle the "radio" button off and then back on.

Now head to the site survey tab, select your desired Wifi network and click the connect button.

If you are attempting to use a protected network, it may ask you for a password.

Misc Issues

There are some other issues. While not necessarily deal breakers, they are things you should be aware of. First and foremost installing Apple updates is very bad idea -- they can break your installation entirely. App updates that don't require a restart are generally okay. iTunes 8, for instance, worked for me. But in general you're stuck with OS X 10.5.4 until the iDeneb hackers release an update.

Obviously the EeePC keyboard is different than Mac keyboards. The alt key is the command key, the Windows key is the option key and control is the Mac alt key.

The screen calibration is bit bluish by default, though you can fix it with the screen calibration tools in System Preferences.

Overall, despite some annoyances, I've been quite happy with my EeePC Hackintosh and wouldn't hesitate to recommend giving it a try, provided you're willing to spend some time fiddling with the installation to get everything working.